Michael's Reviews > The Blue Book of the John Birch Society

The Blue Book of the John Birch Society by Robert Welch Jr.
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's review
Jan 13, 12

bookshelves: conspiracy-theory, philosophy, politics
Recommended to Michael by: Serendipity
Recommended for: Students of the far right, political scientists, anti-fascists
Read from December 23, 2011 to January 13, 2012, read count: 1

This book is the basic handbook received by all members of the John Birch Society, to explain the mission and structure of the Society. It is largely derived from the 2-day seminar which Robert Welch delivered to various business contacts in order to found the JBS. I have rated this book, because my proviso about refusing to rate racist literature does not apply in this case. It is definitely extremist literature, and my rating should not be read as an endorsement. I have also chosen not to place it on my shelf for "fascism," after some consideration, because while there are definitely fascistic elements within the philosophy expressed here, it does not finally meet all of the criteria for being fascist according to my understanding of the concept. Roger Griffin, in Nature of Fascism, The, offers a basic definition of "generic" fascism which states that "fascism is a genus of political ideology whose mythic core in its various permutations is palingenetic form of populist ultranationalism." This book frequently comes very close to meeting this definition, as in passages such as "...then the cancer we already have, although it is of considerable growth, can be cut out. And despite the bad scars and the loss of some muscles, this young, strong, great new nation, restored to vigor, courage, ambition, and self-confidence, can still go ahead to fulfill its great destiny, and to become an even more glorious example for all the earth than it ever was before." This is clearly palingenesis in its most raw and naked form, and is built upon populist ultra-nationalism. There is also a section in which Welch essentially enunciates the Furhrerprinzip for an American cultural context. However, one of the key corollaries which Griffin articulates is also that "fascism is anti-conservative," which this book is not. Welch does hedge a little at one point, admitting that conservatism is ultimately a defensive posture, an attempt to preserve what exists, rather than a positive program, but the bulk of the book continually returns to conservative values and an expressed desire to minimize government and government interference in people's lives. This differs Welch, for example, from George Lincoln Rockwell, who openly expressed contempt for conservatives as weaklings unable to defend themselves from Communism and who advocated increased government control and even socialization of some industries. Welch's claim to be opposed to government interference may be seen as disingenuous by some, however, in light of his support for Joseph McCarthy and earlier investigations of the House UnAmerican Activities Commission. His organization was strictly hierarchical and he clearly articulates an opposition to democracy in principle, however. His position, common among certain segments of the political right today, is that the Founding Fathers intended the country as a Republic, not a Democracy (never mind the fact that some of them formed a "Democratic Republican Party"), and that Democracy is a tool of would-be tyrants. It can only be said that, in the question of fascism vs conservatism, Welch and the John Birch Society walk a very fine line of ambiguity.
While that question may never be adequately answered, there certainly is value to be had in reading this book, especially for students and researchers of the far right in America. The line of right-wing panic about the ostensible leftward trend of government since FDR (Welch mentions Wilson as the originator of this problem, but offers no data to support it) has been building in a non-mainstream subcultural context at least since this was first published in 1959, and this text offers considerable historical insight into this tendency, which has now produced the Tea Party and some of the recent crop of aspiring Republican presidential candidates. It is remarkable how little has changed in this rhetoric and philosophy, even twenty years since the fall of the Kremlin as the epicenter of the "international Communist conspiracy." This book offers a snapshot of a time when much of this thinking first crystallized, and is also better-written and more coherent than most extremist literature, then and today.
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Reading Progress

12/25/2011 page 2
1.0%
01/05/2012 page 105
59.0% "...then the cancer we already have, although it is of considerable growth, can be cut out. And despite the bad scars and the loss of some muscles, this young, strong, great new nation, restored to vigor, courage, ambition, and self-confidence, can still go ahead to fulfill its great destiny, and to become an even more glorious example for all the earth than it ever was before."
01/08/2012 page 127
71.0% "Now we are surfeited in this country with organizations opposing Communism...Most of them, frankly, do not have any possibility of even enough piecemeal accomplishment in the total fight to justify the money and energy expended on them. For usually there is no sufficiently inspired personal leadership of the organization itself to obtain the greatest unanimity of purpose, efficiency, and and enthusiasm..."
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